Monday, December 28, 2009

Loving the One You Fear: The Peculiar Christian Dilemma

Imagine, if you will, being devoted to and in love with someone who has committed mass murder and various atrocities throughout his life.

Imagine this individual set up a test for his earliest relatives knowing in advance they would fail and that he would punish their progeny for ever. He readily admits he killed his own son, and was psychotic enough to demand another man kill his only child as a test of the man’s fealty -- stopping him at the very last moment.

Consider that this person created a place of eternal pain and everlasting horror and has the power to commit you there if you don’t profess your love for him. Of course he says that you have free will to love him or not, but if you choose “not,” he’s going to send you to be tortured forever.

He demands that you to praise him for these things… regularly; he expects your worship of him and him alone; he wants you to eat his body and drink his blood in exchange for his benevolence.

What if this was your father, or husband, or boy friend. Could your love be genuine? Could you profess it freely and without intimidation? Would you acquiesce to his demands out of fear? Or would you try to find an out, an escape, a safe house, perhaps seek an Order of Protection?

The description above sounds like it could be the movie script for the next “Saw” sequel. But it’s much worse than a horror film. There are two-billion people to whom this being is not some fictional movie fiend but their much admired and beloved “Father who art in heaven” to whom they profess their undying love and devotion. Father!!???

Many abused and battered women have so little self esteem, so little confidence in themselves that they cling to their abuser and genuinely believe they love him. They will say -- “Oh, that was the old him…he’s changed now. Besides, it was my own misbehavior that provoked him and made him do these things. He promises me I’ll be rewarded eventually. It’s all good.” But all the while they know the possibility exists that if they slip they will be horribly killed, or continuously punished. The unpredictability of this demented thing adds another dimension of horror. It is their fear that cements their “love.” It’s a terrible fact of reality for some women. Society as a whole abhors and condemns it.

And yet, when that fiend, that bully, that psychopath is the imagined Supreme Being that has been thrust upon them since childhood, society says “This is good. How could you not want such a Father? Join me in my love born of fear.”

What a hideous dilemma and existence Christians submit to: indoctrinated to love something by fear of its power and wrath; and let it rule your life even when it doesn’t exist. When confronted with this reality they will deny their fear, even employing words like “respect” to define "God Fearing." But repression of the facts do not change them. To me that sounds like the definition of Hell on Earth.


Angel said...

I have always despised that Christian phrase, "God fearing man/woman."

And that's an odd coincidence, Hump. A friend of mine said the exact same thing the other day in an off-hand way during a conversation and I said to her, "It's not good to be scared of your god." And she said, "But I love Him." To which I said, "But you fear him so how can you love him if you still fear him?" She became flustered, naturally. And then changed the subject. People (in the south, anyway) use the phrase so lightly and they really don't think about what it really means.

I'm so glad I'm not a battered and abused sheep anymore. It really is sick. I hope that literalist christians stumble across your blog and learn what they're doing to themselves. All they're doing is stunting their growth as human beings.

Glenn Livingston said...

Hump, this is a particularly powerful and thought provoking post.

I've often wondered if much of the sadomasochistic character problems (battered women being just one) stem from the Judeo-Christian love born of fear.

Yet it's so inculcated into the culture that one is not even supposed to mention it as a hypothesis. In fact, the DSMIV requires us to avoid defining as pathological anything which is the norm by cultural standards.

Anyway, you're certainly a guy lacking fear, which is quite an inspiration.

If it turns out for any reason you're wrong, I'll come hang out with you with my fishing pole ... who knows what delicious treats we might catch in the Lake of Fire :-)

(Of course, I'm a strict vegan, but I'll make an exception)

Now here's a question... is the fear of God supposed to cease once you're living in eternal bliss in Heaven? Or must one continue in such a relationship?

And if that's the case, how would heaven really be any different than Hell?

Now here's the really odd thing.

It's NOT just sadomasochism which is inspired by the fear of God. In fact, there ARE many kindhearted character traits I see all around me in devoted Christians, and so I'm constantly reluctant to challenge the source of their values.

Yet I know from having studied Kohlberg's continuum of moral stages that these values can only have a child like underpinning if they're motivated by fear of punishment.

At some point, mature people must choose to do the right thing simply because it's the right thing to do, regardless of what the consequences might be. This sometimes might involve flying in the face of their childhood authorities, and sometimes even the law.

Yet how can someone under constant threat of eternal punishment for even a minor offense against God ever achieve this more sophisticated level of morality?

And what hope for us is there if the world is controlled by billions of people who live as such?

Food for thought.

Thanks again for all you do!

NewEnglandBob said...

Maybe this is the original Stockholm syndrome.

From wikipedia:

"The syndrome has also been explained in evolutionary terms. Historically raptio (e.g., Rape of the Sabine women) and bride kidnapping have been (and still are in some places) very common practices. Women who were kidnapped and consistently fought back were likely to be killed or imprisoned and thus not have children. But women who bonded with and submitted to their captors were more likely to have children and their children were more likely to receive the genes that made their mothers more passive and bonding towards their captors. And over several generations, this made the population of humans more genetically prone to submission and bonding when kidnapped."

In this case, it is submission of children, indoctrinated into religion at an early age.

Angel said...

Glen and NEBob have made some interesting points....

Dromedary Hump said...


Whenever I challenge a Xtian about "God Fearing", they like to say that fearing doesn't mean fear, it means "respect."

Funny how word meaning suddenly taken on new definitions when it doesn't suit their [preferences, or causes them embarrassment. But they've been redefining words, and changing scriptural passages to suit their needs for 1000 years.


Food for though indeed. Thanks for that excellent input.
Your version of hell would probably be having to eat prime rib and Big Macs for an eternity. Mine would be having to grovel at the feet of some malevolent superbeing lying to him for an eternity how fricken great he is ;)


I think you have something there with the Stockholm syndrome. Excellent point.

Thank all

DM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
NewEnglandBob said...

DM stands for Definitely Mental.

Just delete his stupid posts. This troll is posting the same nonsense all over the place.

Dromedary Hump said...

LOL. yeah...I've seen it in all the atheist blogs. What a buffoon.

More proof that theists are at the bottom of the mental endowment chain.

Anonymous said...

Another masterpiece.
Thank You.
We as atheist's are often called the immoral ones, but we're not the ones that go to church and worship a monster that tortured and murders (temporarily) his own son.

- KrateKraig.

Dromedary Hump said...

Thanks, Kraite.

Alas, the hideous irony of it is all lost on them.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LaurieB said...

New England Bob,

Maybe Stockhold Syndrome goes all the way back to nonhuman primates. I'm reading through books by Sarah Hrdy and the primate stuff is facinating. When a primate troop is taken over by a new dominant male he then proceeds to kill all the newborns that were fathered by the deposed dominant male. This brings the formerly lactating adult females into fertility. At this point in the story I thought that those females would abandon the troup or gang up on the new male and drive him out but that's not how the story ends. They mate with him and produce another offspring. The explanation being that after losing all the "expense" that went into the previous pregnancy and lactation they don't want to waste any more time and proceed to get pregnant by the new male and get on with the business of procreation without further ado. I've been thinking through how this information and other ideas in Hrdy's books relate to human female behavior especially in their dealings with males.

Is this type of behavior masochistic stockholm syndrome or pragmatic realism?

Glenn, that DSM section that you mention is extremely aggravating and ridiculous in my opinion. I want that to be changed some day.

Dromedary Hump said...


Dear Camel,

I grew up in a fundamentalist Protestant faith. I can testify (pun intended) to how hellish it can be to live in fear.

I was told that if I did not repent and speak in tongues, then one day every one I loved would be raptured away and I would be "left behind" to endure a horrible death! I did repent and I was baptized. But for most of my childhood, I wOndered what was wrong with me because I didn't know how to speak in tongues.

I had panic attacks sometimes if I didn't know exactly where my parents were. Fortunately for me, my parents left the religion before I graduated from high school. I got to go to college, and I learned to use my reasoning skills. I learned what a powerful weapon knowledge and personal experience can be when fighting fear and brain washing. However, even now at 41, I am still working on retraining my brain not to react to life with fear and worry.

So, I want to thank you for providing a different perspective. Even though I have educated myself on the history of religion and the Bible, I still have to work at viewing the world through a different lense than the one I was given as a child. Thankfully, my parents have always encouraged growth through education, and they love me for who I am. For this I am grateful, to them!


Rachelle said...

Again...this is why I love coming here...There's never a dull moment. LOL! seems we have something else in common...I'm a vegan too. LOL!

Hump...I look forward to more insightful, thought-provoking and spot on blogs in the coming year. :)

NewEnglandBob said...


In the case of non-human primates, you asked: "Is this type of behavior masochistic Stockholm syndrome or pragmatic realism?"

I don't think it is either. I think it is behavior that is influenced primarily by genes in both the males and the females. In that case it is just instincts. It is not good behavior or bad behavior. Morality does not enter into it, nor does conscious decision making. Humans, of course, are also influenced by genetics but are also much more complex. Humans have planning and understanding and a more developed culture.

Contents under pressue said...

God as an abusive spouse...

And through the Catholic Church's medieval stance, they're also intent on making their significant other nothing more than a baby factory.

Twin-Skies here from Friendly Atheist. Just thought I'd drop by to see what else you write - your post left much for me to think about. And I thank you for that.

I left the RCC for very similar reasons. It just did not make sense to me that a being that is supposed to foster true morality and compassion, would have to resort to threats of damnation and hellfire just to keep its creations in line.

Dromedary Hump said...

Contents / Twin-skies

Thanks for the input, glad to have you here. Welcome.

and I hope I didn't come across to rough on Friendly Atheist. Glad it stimulated some additional thought.


LaurieB said...


When it comes to primate reproductive strategy, I put less emphasis on instict. The interaction between genetics and reproductive behavior have shaped us physically and psychologically.

The genetic component is obvious. In general, males are bigger and stronger than females. This fact is the elephant in the reproduction room. Is there any female who doesn't know it and gauge her actions accordingly? In cases of male-female conflict it would shock me to see a female initiate physical violence against a guy. It would be extremely risky. Bob, we've met before and you know I'm not a petite lady. I'm 5'9" and even so, as mad as I might get at a guy, I would never haul off and punch him. Not that I'm so passive and morally refined, it's just that I know for a fact that I could fight with the the smallest spindly guy around and he could break my arms and legs and strangle me in the space of about 20 minutes, dust himself off and walk away with some scratches and a missing chunk of hair at the most.

But even so, don't assume that females are passive and docile. Since overt aggression is a losing strategy there is something better and quite effective. Passive Aggression.

Getting back to your example of the Sabine women and bride stealing or raiding of tribes to steal young fertile females, which I agree was a common occurance in human history. I'm not sure what you mean by "bonding toward captors" so I'll say that I'm doubtful about the bonding thing. But "passive" is extremely unlikely. I understand that they may have appeared to be passive to an observer. Why would a female risk death by challenging her captor to a physical fight? It's crazy. It's not something that females learn as adults. Girls already know it. As a hostage she will make the best of a situation that she finds herself in. Appease males with nonconfrontational behavior. Psychological manipulation works best to get what she needs. These are conscious decisions, learned behavior, not insticts.

Her behavior with the females in the new group is a different story altogether. The rules are totally different there. Psychological manipulation will rule the day but there is no reason to avoid physical agression with other women if it comes to that. All female primates are aggressive in their own domains, especially because their offspring are involved.

I realize that these behaviors are hard for us to see here in our nice civilized, monogomous suburbs but as you know, I lived in North Africa for some years in the past. It's a primitive, tribal, patriarchal, patrilocal, polygamous culture where physical violence is common and acceptable. Concepts from the book -The Red Queen by Ridley and everything by Hrdy play out overtly.

For females in patriarchal societies, what is the difference between walking on eggshells around dominant males and submitting to the oppressive and threatening requirements of God. It's the same. God is just the biggest, meanest alpha male around. Words like "respect" and "fear" and even "love" are all tangled up in disgusting mess. God is treated just like any other dominent male: appease him with whatever it takes and weadle him when neccessary.

Planning, understanding and a more developed culture have no effect on sexual politics and reproductive strategies.

Bob, we're a bunch of fucking apes. Literally.

LaurieB said...

Sorry about the bad spelling on previous post. My computer is choking to death and has zapped my spell check out. *wimper* I can't figure out how to edit on here.

NewEnglandBob said...

I certainly didn't notice any bad spelling. Your comment had a lot to think about.

Dromedary Hump said...

as a semi-illiterate myself, we welcome bad spelling here ;)

I concur with NEBob, your posts are very thought provoking. Thanks for them.


Leo said...

LaurieB - well said. I agree with what you said.

"Whenever I challenge a Xtian about "God Fearing", they like to say that fearing doesn't mean fear, it means "respect."
Funny how word meaning suddenly taken on new definitions when it doesn't suit their [preferences, or causes them embarrassment. But they've been redefining words, and changing scriptural passages to suit their needs for 1000 years."

"Love" can be a tricky word in English. I think, if you really decided to grill someone on whether they "love", "fear", or "respect" God, you'll get into a perhaps useless debate on semantics. As to what emotion/state a person would have toward God in some supposed afterlife, that's perhaps even more difficult to define.

What I hear often is that people just want to believe in something bigger than themselves, and it is easy to assign that something a human identity, and our society still views authority as male. Something bigger than oneself can be one's community/family/society/etc, but I think many cannot get out of personifying it. If that something is literally above everything else, it would have an authority to equal that status, and thus the fear aspect. Personally, I find the ideas of physics, cosmology, etc to be humbling enough without a grand sky-daddy to be necessary.

Dromedary Hump said...

Leo said: "If that something is literally above everything else, it would have an authority to equal that status, and thus the fear aspect."

Hi Leo!

My wife's father was probably the gentlest, kindest man I ever knew. In her entire life she never heard her father raise his voice in anger to anyone, never threaten, never hurt.
The love he inspired in everyone was genuine, as was the respect. The concept of "fearing" him, even as he was the ultimate/ highest autority in my wife's childhood life never even entered into her mind, or her sister's.
That is true love and respect of a "a higher authority," an authority who does not cause fear.

There still exist old time Russians who yearn for the good old days of Joe Stalin. He was a symbol of ultimate authority. I'm sure that some of them love him still, even while they knew his reputation and genuinely feared him.

A sane person, a thinking person, could never equate the genuine love that my wife held for her father which knew no fear; with whatever emotion the deluded called "love" for the USSR's worst genocidal tyrant.

One of those "loves" is real. Applying the term to the latter is an oxymoron or an obscene perversion of the word. And it's that Stalin like Love/Fear emotion that Xtians hold for their God ... whether they acknowldge it or not.

Angel said...

It's indoctrination, plain and simple. When a person hears that God is fearful and awesome to behold enough times it's going to be imprinted on their heart that to be fearful and awesome is perfectly alright if you're God. Because that person doesn't realize there are alternatives. Sheesh, even Buddhism is a better alternative than literalist Christianity!! You never hear of rabid Buddhist monks trying to take over towns, states, or countries.

Yesterday I found a paper written by someone about The New Gnostics and their evil ways of tarnishing Ye Olde Time Religion. I heaved and gagged my way through about 5,000 words before I just couldn't take it anymore. It was like Irenaeus had reincarnated. Sickening. I'm going to refute this blasphemy(naturally) on my blog sometime soon. Still letting the nauseating conclusions they reached simmer and boil in my brain first.

There is such a thing as simply being wrong and then there is arrogance and stampeding stupidity. Let's hope there's a cliff nearby somewhere real soon so the lemmings can rid themselves of their earthly shell and leave us the hell alone.

Angel said...

On the note of horrible rulers, I found a fascinating Zen fable:

"A terrible ruler lived a dissolute, self-centered life. He abused his family and his realm. Driven by gluttony, pleasure and brutality, the ruler found himself widely hated.

When he became old and ill, he sent for a Zen master who told him about reincarnation.

"Could I come back as an animal?" asked the frightened ruler, "...even as a pig?!"

"Could happen," answered the master.

On hearing this, the ruler decreed that thereafter, no pigs were to be killed in his kingdom. Unfortunately, when he died, his realm in revenge became famous for its delicious pork. It was the custom to name each pig to be slaughtered after the despised ruler.

"Are you in there?" they would ask the poor beast before dispatching it.

Anonymous said...

Do we love abusive parents too? I personally can't stand to read about a parent who abuses their own.

For example, would you build a playground for your kids, and than put a running chainsaw in the center?(garden of Eden).

Would you leave your toddler(s) alone in the neighborhood knowing that a drug pusher was going to try to convince your kids to do something forbidden?(Serpent in said garden).

Would you kill all your kids but one and his immediate family?(Noah).

Imagine two of your kids gave you a present. Would you tell one child how wonderful his present was, and tell the other what a piece of crap HIS present was?(Cain and Able)

How about this..... Your kids are having problems. So you instuct one child(Moses) to tell the other child (Pharaoh)to knock it off, or he will pay. In the mean time, you tell the other child NOT to listen to the first("and he harden the Pharaohs heart). Then, just for kicks you kill all the innocent first born in the second childs village to teach him a lesson!!! Man, that's one terrible dad!!

The last example(of many) is one of my all time favorites. You make a bet with your sworn enemy(Satan) that he can't shake the love of your best behaved child(Job). Your enemy tortures your kid to the point of death, destroys those he loves, and generally is a real terror to him. Well, your kid still loves you, and your enemy is proven wrong. But to what end? All that horror has made abosolutly zero difference!! Your enemy is still your enemy, he hasn't changed, but your kid is scarred for life!! What a great parent!!!

Above all, don't forget the Xtian mantra "god gave us free will". Yeah, sure he did "love me or burn". That's not free will. Free will would be "believe in me and go to heaven", or "don't believe and go to heaven". They confuse freedom of choice with free will. Sorry, abusers don't give free will.

-- The Serpent Was Right

Angel said...

Now here's more food for thought along the lines of Anonymous':

If the serpent was so bad and God so all-powerful why couldn't he simply strip Adam and Eve's memory of what they did and start over again? Why the bitch fit and throwing them out of the Garden?

Anonymous, you have some great insight. Would you mind if I quoted you on a blog post? That rant you did was fantastic!

The serpent was right said...

Please feel free to quote whatever you would like. I would be honored.

Angel said...

Awesome! Thanks!

Bradley said...

christian Feminists!?!?!?! Even more absurd than christian "scientists"!!!! Thanks!

Angel said...

No, Bradley. What's absurd is that the term feminism must exist at all. Without all the Christian dogma being beaten into people's heads the past two thousand years it's no wonder that women have been forced to fight for rights over their own bodies.

And you're very welcome.